The social world has and will always be a mystery for many on the spectrum. Nevertheless, one of the many strengths of those with autism is a strong attachment to logic, rules, and facts. And so, one must use these abilities to investigate social situations they are in by being a ‘social detective’!
From early stages, teach your child to be a ‘social detective’ by investigating and compiling facts and data. By being good social detectives, they use their senses to read the room and gain an understanding of what behaviours are expected or are not. Many children on the spectrum have a positive disposition to facts and data: use that to increase their social understanding. Do not make them adhere to the socially constructed stereotypes as this will reduce their capability to critically analyze.
Turn them into social scientists. Teach them to look at the interactions around them methodologically; to size up situations by looking for social detail. Teach them to observe, listen, and understand first before jumping in.Consider the following question while teaching your children to be social detectives; What does your child’s body language tell you? Always remember to listen to what your child is saying first and then talk. The child should learn to look at information and clarification about events before entering them (what can I expect, what am I expected to do, context, common themes, the sequence of events, etc.)
During early years, parents need to be the “detective” for the child; by thinking out loud (I wonder how that person is feeling? I bet that made him sad.”), as well as being the social interpreter; explaining and clarifying the unwritten rules, perspectives and intentions of others. Parents can model the methods of “social investigating” ; create a hypothesis of what is going on, the expectations of them and their environment, etc. Seek to observe first, then clarify and verify. Do not make assumptions and teach the routine of looking, listening, and clarifying.
In the early stages, it may just be the parent narrating this investigation with minimal participation from the child. Do not worry if the child is not an active participant; they will gradually pick up the pace. They are listening! You are providing them with a framework for analyzing social situations.